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Archives > January 2013 > Web-enabled Cameras Help Construction Timeline

Web-enabled Cameras Help Construction Timeline

In the spring of 2011, Boston University embarked on roughly $70 million worth of new construction, renovations, and technology upgrades. One of those projects was the Center for Student Services, a 122,000 square-foot, six-story building. Workers broke ground in March 2011 with plans to complete the Center before the students' return to campus in mid-August.

By: Chandler McCormack

The Center for Student Services is the most highly anticipated project on Boston University's Charles River Campus. When finished, the building will be home to six academic advising programs, including the Educational Resource Center, the Center for Career Development, and several College of Arts & Sciences programs, as well as a new dining hall that can accommodate more than 1,000 students.

How to be a good neighbor
"Boston University is an urban campus interspersed with residential and commercial areas and thoroughfares and bordered by the Charles River," explained Lauren Stanton, communications specialist for Boston University Facilities Management & Planning. 

"The section where the construction is happening is somewhat residential, and we have to take into consideration class schedules and resident life."

Large scale construction projects with the potential to disrupt traffic flow and cause noise garner significant community interest, so the school's Facilities Management & Planning department works hard to involve the campus community and surrounding residents. Construction cameras have played an important role in keeping the community informed and maintaining good will.

"Sixteen years ago, when we renovated our business school, we captured time-lapsed photos of the project. This time around, we contacted our internal IT people. The camera they offered us did not have time-lapse capabilities, so we wanted to find a more advanced technology," said Stanton. "Older technologies included an IP address where you could view the camera, but it required the installation of new software. We wanted to make it easy to see our camera views without downloading any new software."

Stanton's team accesses the construction camera dashboard internally, as does the university president, senior vice president of operations and others with a stake in the project. Subscribers to the dashboard include faculty, staff, students and community members. Alumni groups tap into the dashboard for development purposes.

"We also send out a project update and still shots every Friday. If we are expecting a delay in traffic or that streets will be blocked off, we include that information in the weekly update," said Stanton.

Keeping up with a fast moving project
General contractor Bond Brothers Inc. found the cameras to be useful in three important ways: keeping the fast moving project on schedule, staying within budget, and as an internal tool for continuous improvement.

Kevin A. Cooke, director of operations for Bond, is responsible for managing schedules and budgets, as well as constantly interacting with clients to ensure that Bond is meeting their goals at every phase of the project.

"Because of my position, my hands are on nearly every project in the company," said Cooke, who also served as the project executive for the Center for Student Services.

"Being a fast-track job, there were people in the industry who told me that this building could not be built in the time frame that was required," recalled Cooke. "As we were racing toward the finish, I used the time-lapse video to rally the troops. I was able to show them where we are today, where we had started and all that we had accomplished in a relatively short period of time."

Although the job ran for extended hours and Cooke lives 35 miles outside of the city, he was able to maintain control and forward momentum without added site visits and without compromising the aggressive construction schedule.

"In the time it would take me to get to the job site to address an issue, I could log into the camera and see what was happening and call the right people based on what I was seeing," said Cooke. "It enabled timely responses to situations that occurred after hours."

And from a budgeting standpoint, a picture can be worth a thousand dollars-or more.

"Right now we're in the midst of closing out some contractors and dealing with a lot of the costs associated with expedited work," said Cooke. "We're actually using the camera now to remind people what the status of the job actually was. If there were materials that came late and it cost us money to keep the job open, we can utilize that information to more accurately negotiate final costs on the job."

In addition to holding external team members accountable, Bond is using archived video to hold themselves accountable and learn from the experiences of completed projects. 

"We use the time-lapsed footage to share lessons learned and evaluate the entire project after completion. Our project teams regularly get together to make presentations to other members of the company in a lunch-and-learn format. In two or three months, we will regroup and have a meeting about this Boston University project," predicted Cooke.

 

 

About The Author
Chandler McCormack

spent 10 years as a civil engineer and land planner for commercial, industrial and multifamily development companies before founding OxBlue in 2001. OxBlue is a leading construction camera service provider, with hardware, connectivity and expertise across six continents and 50 states. For more information, visit www.oxblue.com.

 

 

 

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